Did you know the human body is composed of almost 60% water? Because of this, staying hydrated is a crucial component that keeps our bodies functioning correctly. Aging adults are more susceptible to dehydration, and unfortunately, it’s one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for those over the age of 65. As you age, your body’s water content decreases naturally, which makes establishing a regular hydration schedule vital. Whether your loved one lives in an independent or assisted living community or has previously suffered from the effects of dehydration, it’s essential to consider the hydration benefits for aging adults so they can remain healthy and engaged.
Why is Hydration Important in Older Adults?
Drinking water regularly is essential no matter your age as it helps our bodies function correctly. Adequate hydration helps keep our joints lubricated, prevents infection, and ensures our organs perform as they should. Monitoring your water intake has also been proven to improve sleep quality, moods, and regulate body temperature. While there are many benefits of drinking water, the ones listed below are particularly important for your aging loved one:
- Recognition of thirst. As humans age, it becomes more challenging to realize when we’re thirsty, which increases the risk of dehydration. Staying aware of water intake is vital for your loved one, so they can stay healthy and energized.
- Optimized metabolism. Did you know that our metabolic system changes as you age? Younger adults can regulate water balance while aging adults metabolize water differently, meaning water turnover is easily compromised. Regular water intake will help enhance your loved one’s metabolism.
- Improved brain function. The human body and brain are mainly composed of water, so regular hydration is important for optimal mental function. Aging adults commonly experience slowed cognitive processes, and staying hydrated ensures brain cells receive the appropriate amount of water.
- Maintain urinary health. It’s not unusual for your loved one to face urinary incontinence as they age. Healthy and regular water intake will help incontinence, in addition to reducing the risk of urinary tract infections and other problems associated with incontinence.
- Enhanced digestion. Our digestive systems need water to function correctly. If your loved one suffers from digestive discomfort or constipation, regular water intake will help provide relief. Fiber is another critical component for optimal digestive health.
- Regulate kidney health. Kidney function typically diminishes as we age, which negatively impacts the body’s ability to concentrate urine. Your loved one should incorporate regular water intake into their daily routine to boost renal ability and regulate kidney health.
While many opinions are surrounding how much water you should drink in a day, the most standard recommendation is eight 8-ounce glasses per day. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different, and this could fluctuate because of a variety of factors like activity level, age, and more. It’s recommended to check with your loved one’s physician or utilize a water intake calculator to determine the appropriate amount of daily water intake.
If your loved one has difficulties drinking water due to lack of flavor or a similar obstacle, it can be helpful to add fruit or flavoring. It’s best to indulge in other drinks like juice or caffeinated beverages less frequently than water as many are associated with high sugar content, diuretic effects, and more.
What is Dehydration?
Adequate water intake is vital for those of every age. However, as your loved one gets older, the water content in their body decreases. Additionally, many aging adults are on medications that can alter the balance of salt and water, increase urination and sweat, impact stool production, and more. Dehydration causes high volumes of salt and water that are necessary for optimal function to exit our bodies, and if left untreated, the effects can be severe.
The symptoms of dehydration in elderly individuals can be very similar to those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia in memory care communities. You must encourage your loved one to hydrate or seek medical attention if severe should you recognize any of the following symptoms of dehydration:
- Dry skin lacking average elasticity
- Inability to sweat
- Dehydration headache
- Decreased tears
- Changes in urine color
- Sunken eyes
- Excessive loss of fluid
Effects of Dehydration
The effects of dehydration can vary by person and level of severity. While there are many areas of your loved one’s well being that can be impacted by dehydration, the ailments listed below are a few of the most common:
- Urinary tract infections
- Prolonged wound healing times
- Kidney stones
- Hyperglycemia in those with diabetes
- Increased likelihood of falls
Managing Your Loved One’s Water Intake
As your loved one ages, their susceptibility to dehydration increases because the amount of body water decreases by approximately 15%. While preventing dehydration is primarily based on encouraging regular water intake, it’s also recommended to speak with your loved one about the importance of drinking water. At times, your loved one may not have a desire to drink water, so we’ve provided a few strategies to encourage fluid consumption:
- Provide beverages your loved one enjoys
- Broth, soda water, smoothies, etc.
- Encourage consumption of fluids when taking medication
- Offer fluids regularly throughout the day
- Experiment with varying temperatures
- Make liquids readily available and accessible
- Consume foods with high water content
- Cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, squash, etc.
Stay Hydrated to Stay Happy
Whether your loved one is living in their long-term home or has transitioned into an independent living community, adequate and regular hydration is vital. The human body naturally houses a substantial amount of water, and these levels must be maintained for an individual’s body to function correctly. Becoming familiar with the benefits of regular hydration and encouraging your loved one to establish a hydration schedule will help them stay healthy and avoid dehydration. Hydration is essential to preserve your loved one’s well-being and quality of life.